What It Is:
Ask.fm is an app that allows individuals to create an account, connect with friends, and meet new people by asking and answering questions.
What It Does:
Essentially, Ask.fm hosts simple forms that allow users to post questions to friends who are either on Ask.fm or on other social media platforms. The user decides with each question whether or not to share their name in asking the question and who is allowed to answer the questions. (Friends only or anyone.)
Would My Child Want It?:
Primarily, teenagers start using Ask.fm because they see older teenagers or young adult celebrities using it. It’s simple and fun.
Ask.fm is built for curiosity. If you have a question, whether a serious question or something silly, Ask.fm makes it easy to ask the question and collect responses.
Also, your child is likely to want to use Ask.fm because it’s “teenager space.” There are relatively few adult users, few companies use it for promotion, and it’s not an app frequently used by parents.
Where Can It Be Used?:
Android, iOS apps
Also works on desktop web browsers similarly to Instagram.
What Should I Watch Out For?:
- Targeted advertising
- Can build social connection with strangers
- Relatively easy to have several accounts, and people are not always who they say they are
- Allows images and animated GIF
- Not directly pornographic, but outbound links to pornography are common
- Perception of anonymity in answering questions can lead to trolling comments
- Hard, developmentally, for younger teenagers to know the difference between real answers and sarcastic anonymous answers
- Often reported as a source of cyberbullying
- Easy for adults to connect with minors inappropriately
What Are The Positives?:
Ask.fm is built on our natural curiosity. Asking questions and thinking about the answers beyond our own opinion is a valid and important thing for teenagers, developmentally.
If used responsibly, the app can be okay for more mature kids, especially as a fun way to get to know friends better.
What Are The Negatives?:
The perception of anonymity rarely benefits teenagers in social media. If you allow anyone to answer a question and they aren’t required to have a name or have an account, it’s impossible to know if someone is answering a question honestly.
For instance, if a 13 year old girl asks the question “Do you think I’m pretty?” and then posts that question on Twitter, the first few comments are likely to be her friends. But beyond that, a classmate may answer anonymously. And since anyone can answer a question (with text, an image, or an animated GIF), that 13 year old girl might be exposed to a lot of opinions that are not true or from people who have never met her.
We’ve heard from multiple school administrators that Ask.fm is being used to spread rumors about school staff, students, and others using anonymous or parody accounts. In many cases, the school and/or local law enforcement are ill-equipped to track down the culprits.
What We Think:
We think Ask.fm is to be avoided by younger teenagers. It may be fine for older teenagers who have proven themselves to use social media responsibly, but overall there is an abundance of objectionable user-generated content. Every teenager wants to ask questions, some serious and some silly, and it’s easy to become fascinated by the ability to get a lot of people to respond to a provocative question. But the risk of getting input on personal questions from people you don’t truly know is a dangerous proposition. Should you allow your child to use Ask.fm, we recommend you do it with caution and do your best to monitor their usage.